The Mental Game: Why Scores Drop 10% In Competition

The Mental Game: Why Scores Drop 10% In Competition

It’s as frustrating as it is consistent: I will shoot consistently at a certain level in the weeks before a competition and every competition I will drop 10% in points every time, or at least I used to. Not everyone suffers from this competition affliction, but most do.

Well it’s the mental aspect of shooting, the anxiety about the competition as adrenaline kicks in as if it was your first few hours of shooting again. Your hands shake when you try to aim and you start flinching at previously unseen levels. So you work hard to compose yourself and draw on all your experience to try to hold it together.

I did make some adjustments that helped, although they can take a bit of discipline. There are things to cut out and things to add.

They say you shouldn’t drink alcohol for a week before competition. It does make sense, your reaction speed and motor skills need to be at their very sharpest to get the timing right when controlling the recoil.

Cut out coffee on the day of competition, it stimulates the part of your brain that releases adrenaline so you get the shakes much more easily.

If you want to go a step further drink camomile tea for the couple of hours before the competition. It discourages the adrenaline release even more so.

If you really suffer from the shakes during a competition, there is another step you can take, taking some over the counter supplements about a half an hour before. There is a particular supplement that I used but I am not willing to recommend it because I am not a doctor and also I have read that it is potentially addictive when people use it as a sleeping aid. So do your own research, you should look for a supplement that has anti-anxiety effects.

When it comes to the actual competition, there are a few small tricks that make a big difference. Chewing gum is more effective than you probably think. It is in fact a technique used by many top athletes in a lot of different sports to keep calm in the last half an hour before they compete. There are different theories as to why this is but it does work.

In the final moments, while you’re standing in line to go to the firing point, and also between firing stages, the age old technique of calming yourself down comes into play: deep breaths. Again, simple but effective.

I’ve shot against some world-class marksmen; I’ve never seen anyone shoot a perfect score. Everyone suffers from recoil anticipation to some degree if put under enough pressure but if you suffer from poor competition performance, try these tricks and hopefully you will shoot to the level that you’re capable of.

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